Anantnag, Apr 23 (UNI) About 13.61 per cent polling was recorded in the first of three phase polling in six of the 16 Assembly segments of Anantnag Parliamentary Constituency (PC) in south Kashmir on Tuesday.
Barring few incidents of stone pelting, the polling remained by and large peaceful in the constituency which was held amidst unprecedented security arrangements following boycott and strike called by Joint Resistance Leadership (JRL) on Tuesday.
Chief Electoral Officer (CEO) Shalinder Kumar told media persons this evening that 13.61 per cent polling was recorded in Anantnag district of the constituency against 39.37 voter turnout in 2014.
The voter turnout today was lowest so far recorded in the state, he said adding earlier lowest was 14 per cent in Srinagar constituency.
He said polling was peaceful.
In the main town Bijbehara, hometown of Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) president Mehbooba Mufti, seeking mandate from the constituency and Anantnag town witnessed less polling as compared to outskirts and villages, where people, including some women cast their votes. Mehbooba also cast her vote at Bijbehara.
At some polling booths women, wearing traditional Kashmir “Pheran” came out in large numbers to exercise their democratic right.
Polling started at 0700 hrs at all the 714 polling stations in the constituency, spread over four districts of Anantnag, Kulgam, Pulwama and Shopian, where 5,29,256 electors, including 2,57,540 females are eligible to elect their representative from among the 18 candidates, , including former chief minister and President of Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) Mehbooba Mufti, Pradesh Congress Committee (PCC) chief G A Mir, and Justice (Retd) Hasnain Masoodi and BJP Mohammad Yousuf.
Polling conclude at 1600 hrs, two hours before the normal timing elsewhere in the state, where polling continued from 0700 hrs to 1800 hrs. This decision, officials said, was taken for security reasons.
The next two phases in the constituency would be held in Kulgam district on April 29 while on May 6, polling will be held in Shopian and Pulwama districts.
Returning Officer (RO) for Anantnag Parliamentary Constituency (PC), Khalid Jahangir, told UNI that all arrangements, including three-tire security, had been put in place for conducting the elections in secure and peaceful manner.
Assured Minimum Facilities (AMF) for polling stations with regard to power supply, furniture, water supply and other required facilities had been put in place, he said adding the ramp facilities have also been ensured at the polling stations. Webcasting will be made at 28 polling locations in Anantnag district, he said.
“The district has 5,29,256 electors, including 2,57,540 females, 2102 service electors (2102 male and 11 female) and 11 transgender voters. For smooth polling the ECI has setup 714 polling stations in the district,” he said. He said Kokernag Assembly segment has the highest number of 93,694 voters, including 44,948 females, while Doru has the lowest 78,653 electors, including 37,889 females. “Assembly segment Bijbehara has 93,289 voters, including 46,222 females, Shangus 88374 voters (43,010 females), Pahalgam 86,614 (42,498 females) and Anantnag 86,530 (42,973 females),” he said.
He said the highest 46,222 female voters are in the Assembly segment of Bijbehara. “Among the assembly segments of Anantnag district, Shangus has a total of 1,031 service electors which is highest in the district,” he added.
He said besides state police, Central Paramilitary Force (CPMF) personnel in strength had been deployed at polling stations to provide a secure atmosphere to voters to cast their ballots. Besides security forces already engaged in anti militancy operations would be there to prevent any violent incident.
The campaigning, which came to an end Sunday evening, witnessed some militant attacks, including grenade attacks, firing on a vehicle carrying poll material, besides stone pelting. A PDP worker was shot at and critically wounded by unidentified gunmen in Anantnag.
Even though there are 18 candidates seeking mandate from the constituency, the main contest is expected to be between Ms Mehbooba, Mir and JusticeMasoodi, who is supported by CPI(M).
Considered as stronghold of Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) following its win in 11 out of 16 Assembly segments in 2014, the constituency has witnessed major change after the party formed coalition government with the BJP in the state.
Though all political parties, including NC, PDP, BJP and Congress organised poll meetings under very heavy security cover, majority people remained indifferent to election process.
Due to security reasons, bypoll could not be held in the constituency after the seat fell vacant when Ms Mehbooba resigned to become the chief minister of the state following demise of her father Mufti Mohammad Sayeed in 2016. However, bypoll in Srinagar constituency was held in 2016 after PDP MP Tariq Hameed Karra resigned in protest against party’s coalition with BJP.
Later, Dr Farooq Abdullah of NC was elected. But, the bypoll to Srinagar Lok Sabha seat was marred by violent clashes between security forces and protestors that left eight civilians dead.
Jammu and Kashmir Peoples Conference, which does not have much of a presence in south Kashmir, has fielded Chaudhry Zaffar Ali as its candidate.
The BJP, which had managed to garner only 1.26 per cent of the votes polled in Lok Sabha constituency during 2014 general election, has fielded Sofi Yousuf, a MLC this time. Besides candidates from other smaller parties, there are the independent candidates in fray for the constituency.
The campaigning was not as vigorous in south Kashmir as it was in Srinagar and Baramulla parliamentary constituencies as some attacks were carried out by militants on political workers in the last over a fortnight.
Instead of big rallies as witnessed in central and north Kashmir, political parties conducted smaller gathering with adequate arrangements of security. Meanwhile, the BJP was also able to hold meetings of party workers in the constituency, mostly indoors. After questions were being asked why no national BJP leader address poll meeting in favour of party candidates, National Spokesperson Shahnawaz Hussain addressed a public meeting in Anantnag. However, BJP’s stand to scrap Article 370 and 35 A has badly affected BJP candidate.
Interestingly, the development issue took a back seat as leaders tried to woo the voters raising the issues of threat to Article 370 and 35 A, ban on civilian traffic twice in a week on Srinagar-Jammu national highway and National Investigation Agency (NIA) raids, besides Public Safety Act (PSA).
The NC, PDP and PC blamed each other for the prevailing situation in the valley besides erosion of special status of the state. Three former chief ministers — Dr Farooq Abdullah, his son and NC vice-president Omar Abdullah and Mehbooba Mufti president PDP — staged ‘ dharna’ on the highway against ban to draw the attention of voters.
Out of 16 Assembly segments, PDP had won 11 seats, Congress and NC bagged two each while one went to CPI(M) in the constituency in 2014 when no party could manage to get magic 44 figure in 87-member-House. Later, PDP and BJP formed a coalition government.
The Lok Sabha seat was for the first time in 1967 represented by Congress leader Mohammad Shafi Qureshi, who retained the seat for two successive terms – 1971 and 1977. From 1980 to 1989 the constituency was represented by three NC leaders, Ghulam Rasool Kochak, Begum Akbar Jahan Abdullah, wife of Sheikh Abdullah, and P L Handoo. No elections could be held in 1991 due to militancy in the valley.
The seat was represented by Janata Dal leader Mohammad Maqbool in 1996. Mufti Mohammad Sayeed got elected on Congress ticket 1998. In 1999, the seat was represented by Ali Mohammed Naik of NC.
However, since 2004 till 2014, the constituency was represented by PDP Ms Mehbooba was elected in 2004, Mirza Mehboob Beg in 2009 and again Ms Mehbooba in 2014.(UNI)